Hundred Highways Tour #54, 55: U.S. 89 & Highway 540 to Pine Creek

The nice thing about having a blog that three people read, is that when I’m five months late on posting an installment, only three people notice. However, I just noticed that I never posted about the leg of the Hundred Highways Tour to the legendary Pine Creek Lodge.
Pine Creek is the first place I performed when first moving to Montana. I was asked to open for the band The Fossils, for which I wrote the poem “Fossils.” That began a great stretch of readings and performances, including the premiere of Remington Streamliner, the defunct poetry band that lasted about as long as poetry bands do.

More importantly, Pine Creek has a place in history as being home base, for a time, of the Montana Gang, a loose group of writers, musicians and actors that included Richard Brautigan, Thomas McGuane, Jim Harrison, Gatz Hjortsberg, Jeff Bridges, Jimmy Buffett and Guy de la Valdene.

I once spent the night in Cabin 2, where Brautigan lived while writing The Hawkline Monster. Sadly, those cabins are gone, destroyed by the person who owned this magical place between the great days of Ned and Dan and these new days of Chip and Jen. It’s fantastic that the new owners are doing much to make Pine Creek my favorite venue again.

The reading for Vagabond Song was great fun, great crowd and I had the best mac & cheese of my life. Really. Plus this happened:

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Acting Resume

Acting Credits:

 

A Singular Kind of Guy, David Ives; Caldera Theatre Company, “Mitch”

Sure Thing, David Ives; Caldera Theatre Company, “Bill”

On the Harmful Effects of Tobacco, Anton Chekhov; Blue Slipper Theatre, “Nyukhin”

Romeo & Juliet, William Shakespeare; Shane Lalani Center for the Arts, “Lord Capulet”

Red, John Logan; Blue Slipper Theatre, “Rothko”

Well, Lisa Kron; Actors Theatre of Montana, “Man”

The Baltimore Waltz, Paula Vogel; The 303 Collective, “The Third Man”

Cabaret, Kander/Ebb; Pit and Balcony Community Theatre, “Max”

Freewheelin’ in the Attic of Whim, John Francis Bueche, The 303 Collective, “Frank”

Burn This, Lanford Wilson; Something Blue Independent Theatre Co., “Pale”

Nice Shoes, Marc Beaudin; Collective Artists Gallery & Exchange, “Man”

The Dirt Play, Julian McFaul; HERE Gallery, NYC, “Thug”

Working, Schwartz/Faso; Pit and Balcony Community Theatre, “Frank Decker” “Emilio Hernandez”

Beau Jest, James Sherman; Pit and Balcony Community Theatre, “Abe”

Crimes of the Heart, Beth Henley; Pit and Balcony Community Theatre, “Doc”

The Lion in Winter, James Goldman; Pit and Balcony Community Theatre, “Geoffrey”

Dream St., Over & Out, Al Hellus’ Collective Artists Gallery & Exchange, “The Poet”

100 Years of Pure Shit: A Centennial Aberration of Ubu Roi, Alfred Jarry (adapted by John Francis Bueche et al.); Bedlam Theatre, “Ensemble”

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Scenic Design Credits

As a scenic designer, I love the challenge of telling more of the story through visual media. Sometimes this story is historic – a representation of the place and time of the play, but more interesting to me is when the story is metaphoric, symbolic or psychological. These are the sets that become another character in the play, interwoven with the lives and desires of the human characters inhabiting the same world.

Design Credits:

Dying City by Christopher Shinn, 2016
Caldera Theatre Company; Livingston, Montana

Chekov’s Squirtgun by Anton Chekov, 2013
Blue Slipper Theatre/Caldera Theatre Company; Livingston, Montana

The Lion in Winter by James Goldman, 2012
The Blue Slipper Theatre; Livingston, Montana

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, 2012
Shane Lalani Center for the Arts; Livingston, Montana

Frankenstein, Inc. by Marc Beaudin, 2011
The Blue Slipper Theatre; Livingston, Montana

The Woman in Black by Stephen Mallatratt, 2011
Pit & Balcony Community Theatre; Saginaw, Michigan

Dracula by Steven Dietz, 2010
The Blue Slipper Theatre; Livingston, Montana

The Women of Lockerbie by Deborah Breevort, 2009
Bay City Players; Bay City, Michigan

Amadeus by Peter Shaffer, 2008
Pit & Balcony Community Theatre; Saginaw, Michigan

Little Shop of Horrors by Alan Menken & Howard Ashman, 2008
Pit & Balcony Community Theatre; Saginaw, Michigan

Enchanted April by Matthew Barber, 2008
Pit & Balcony Community Theatre; Saginaw, Michigan

Beauty and the Beast by Alan Menken & Howard Ashman, 2007
Pit & Balcony Community Theatre; Saginaw, Michigan

Six Degrees of Separation by John Guare, 2007
Pit & Balcony Community Theatre; Saginaw, Michigan

Baltimore Waltz by Paula Vogel, 2007
The 303 Collective; Saginaw, Michigan

Cabaret by Joe Masteroff, Fred Ebb & John Kander, 2007
Pit & Balcony Community Theatre; Saginaw, Michigan

Broadway Bound by Neil Simon, 2007
Pit & Balcony Community Theatre; Saginaw, Michigan

Picasso at the Lapin Agile by Steve Martin, 2007
Pit & Balcony Community Theatre; Saginaw, Michigan

Christmas My Way by Todd Olson, 2006
Pit & Balcony Community Theatre; Saginaw, Michigan

Crowns by Regina Taylor, 2006
Pit & Balcony Community Theatre; Saginaw, Michigan

Rocky Horror Show by Richard O’Brien, 2006
The 303 Collective; Saginaw, Michigan

TopDog/UnderDog by Suzan-Lori Parks, 2006
The 303 Collective; Saginaw, Michigan

Biloxi Blues by Neil Simon, 2006
Pit & Balcony Community Theatre; Saginaw, Michigan

The Exonerated by Jessica Blank & Erik Jensen, 2006
Pit & Balcony Community Theatre; Saginaw, Michigan

Burn This by Lanford Wilson, 2004
Something Blue Independent Theatre Co.; Saginaw, Michigan

Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat by Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice, 2003
Pit & Balcony Community Theatre; Saginaw, Michigan

Back When the Animals Talked by Lee Perry Belleau, 2001
For a Good Time Theatre Company; Saginaw, Michigan

Betrayal by Harold Pinter, 2000
Collective Artists’ Gallery & Exchange; Saginaw, Michigan

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Directing Credits

I believe that theatre is the art of sharing the experience of living truthfully, in the moment, within imaginary circumstances. My goal as a director is to collaboratively guide everyone involved with the production toward an authentic, unified and creative vision that allows this “living truthfully” to occur. As theatre artists, we dig deeply into the mysteries of human experience and emerge with more mysteries. Questions are more important than answers. And I believe we must develop ways of asking these questions with clarity, harmony and great passion. The answers are then found in the imagination and emotional reality of each audience member.

Directing Credits:

Dying City by Christopher Shinn, 2016
Caldera Theatre Company; Livingston, Montana

Long Ago and Far Away by David Ives, 2015
Caldera Theatre Company; Livingston, Montana

Trout Fishing in Livingston adapted by Marc Beaudin from writings of Richard Brautigan, 2014
Caldera Theatre Company; Livingston, Montana

Chekov’s Squirtgun by Anton Chekov, 2013
Blue Slipper Theatre/Caldera Theatre Company; Livingston, Montana

The Lion in Winter by James Goldman, 2012
Blue Slipper Theatre; Livingston, Montana

Nighttown Suidae adapted from James Joyce’s Ulysses by Marc Beaudin, 2012
Elk River Books’ Bloomsday Celebration; Livingston, Montana

Frankenstein, Inc. by Marc Beaudin, 2011
The Blue Slipper Theatre; Livingston, Montana

The Woman in Black by Stephen Mallatratt, 2011
Pit & Balcony Community Theatre; Saginaw, MI

Dracula by Steven Dietz, 2010
The Blue Slipper Theatre; Livingston, Montana

The Women of Lockerbie by Deborah Breevort, 2009
Bay City Players; Bay City, Michigan

Amadeus by Peter Shaffer, 2008
Pit & Balcony Community Theatre; Saginaw, Michigan

Enchanted April by Matthew Barber, 2008
Pit & Balcony Community Theatre; Saginaw, Michigan

Macbeth by William Shakespeare, 2006
The 303 Collective; Saginaw, Michigan

The Exonerated by Jessica Blank & Erik Jensen, 2006
Pit & Balcony Community Theatre; Saginaw, Michigan

Frankenstein, Inc. by Marc Beaudin, 2005
The 303 Collective; Saginaw, Michigan

Fear & Misery of the Third Reich by Bertolt Brecht, 2005
The 303 Collective; Saginaw, Michigan

Little Shop of Whores by Marc Beaudin, 2004
The 303 Collective; Saginaw, Michigan

Betrayal by Harold Pinter, 2000
Collective Artists’ Gallery & Exchange; Saginaw, Michigan
Dying City by Christopher Shinn, 2016
Caldera Theatre Company; Livingston, Montana

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Theatre Portfolio

This gallery contains 22 photos.

A selection of photos from past shows. Please click on any image to view as a slide show. Captions list my role as director, scenic designer and/or lighting designer. More details at Directing Resume and Design Resume.

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Unearthing Paradise

Unearthing Paradise
“The most important book you’ll buy this year, or maybe any other. … Get it, pass it around, spread the word, let Unearthing Paradise be an awakening, not a swan song.” –Pete Fromm, author of If Not for This and Indian Creek Chronicles

Unearthing Paradise: Montana Writers in Defense of Greater Yellowstone is an effort to raise awareness and inspire activism regarding the need to protect wild lands of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem from extractive and destructive threats. Profits will be used to assist environmental organizations in their efforts to protect these lands. The project grew out of local efforts in Park County to stop two gold mining proposals at the northern gateway to Yellowstone, and includes poetry, essay and fiction by 32 Montana writers including Rick Bass, Tami Haaland, Doug Peacock and the late Jim Harrison. The book’s editors are Marc Beaudin, Seabring Davis and Max Hjortsberg. Terry Tempest Williams provides the foreword.

Visit UnearthingParadise.org for full details.

Available from Elk River Books or your local, independent bookstore.

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Hundred Highways Tour #51 – 53: US 287, US 12, MT 284 to Bedrock Books

beaudin_287sm
North on 287 with wheat and alfalfa running like ponies across the rolling expanse bound for the mountains on every horizon. It’s one of those late-summer days that poets keep trying to capture in words, but never do. It’s one of those big sky days that gives a state its nickname. I almost regret that I have a reading to get to: it would be fantastic to just keep driving, letting the roads unroll where ever they wish, only stopping for gas in towns I’ve never heard of.

But Helena pulls me in just in time to check into my room and head over to Bill Borneman’s house for a fantastic dinner of chicken saltimbocca and malbec in the enchanted garden of a backyard with miniature chickens roaming the underbrush and hummingbirds making the air vibrate with life.

Bill is the owner of Bedrock Books, where my reading is being held. But first, the writer and musician Aaron Parrett and I swing by his place to pick up a banjo and have a look at his book collection. We geek out on James Joyce for awhile, which isn’t something you can do with most banjo-players. Only the best of them.

The reading at Bedrock is like a house concert: a comfy living room full of new friends, surrounded by fantastic books. Good beer in the fridge and afterwards, a gathering in the backyard with night sounds, drunk neighbors and good stories passed around the circle.

And I think, oh yeah, that’s why I do this. Why I drive long distances to sell a few books. It’s these moments of fantastic people and places that open themselves to an out-of-town poet and say, “hey, let me tell you a story.”

[More reports from the Hundred Highways Tour here.]

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Hallelujah Revisited

I remember vividly the first time I heard Leonard Cohen. It was in my room at Squatemala, an anarchist compound of Victorian mansions and carriage houses built by long-dead lumber barons. Over the decades, it had gone feral with broken windows, collapsing walls, leaking roofs and beautiful ghosts roaming the creaking hallways. The overgrown yard, a full-city-block, was hidden by a stockade fence and a row of garage workshops. We added a large wall tent, cultivated wild edibles and gathered nightly around a bonfire for song and smoke, drink and dance.

I had a room in the “Big House,” with moonlight that slipped through leaded glass and a museum of frayed and faded antique furniture.

A very dear friend, a lover then, was surprised and excited that I’d never heard of Cohen. She played “Suzanne” and we lay there, silenced. As a love song, it was instantly among the best I’d heard. Up there with Coltrane’s “Naima” and “San Diego Serenade” by Tom Waits. But then there came this verse:

And Jesus was a sailor when he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain only drowning men could see him
He said all men will be sailors then until the sea shall free them
But he himself was broken, long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human, he sank beneath your wisdom like a stone

and I knew I was listening to a poet. I think a poet is someone who says something utterly new that is so true, so authentic to the music of the universe, that the moment you hear the words they seem to have always existed—part of the bedrock, rooted in our pre-conscious myth. Academics, theologians and philosophers could spend years analyzing and explicating these lines. As humans, though, we feel their meaning in an instant.

The song ended, and we played it again. And then we didn’t play it, and it kept playing within.

Sometime later, our friend, the insanely talented artist and musician Jim Perkins started playing a weekly gig at the Hamilton St. Pub, and during his set would play Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” There was a group of us, based around Squatemala and around the Red Eye Coffeehouse—the greatest coffee spot to ever exist—that were there every week. (Of course, you, I hope, have the same independent, quirky designation in your home town—the greatest coffeehouse exists all over the world, and it never sports a green mermaid in its logo.)

The night was always fantastic. Love and camaraderie and silliness and tiny dancers and enough booze to stun a rhinoceros. But then, near the end of the night, Perkins would give in to our screaming request and play “our song.”

I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do ya?

And suddenly all of us were on the dance floor, in one big hugging circle, signing as if our lives depended on it. We loved each other, we loved the perfection of the song, we even loved that damn curmudgeon Perkins who was humoring us, and we loved the moment that we pretended would last forever.

But it didn’t.

We moved on. We moved away. Some of us loved each other too much and don’t anymore. Some of us sometimes lay awake remembering those days when something magical and beautiful took hold of us, brought us together and gave us a memory that no one on the outside will ever understand.

But all of us still love Leonard Cohen for giving the us his words, his voice and his pain. And I still love all those people, even the ones I pretend I don’t.

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Hundred Highways Tour #49, 50: M-13, M-84 to Bemo’s Bar

Sitting with the Northwoods Improvisors (Mike Johnston on bass)

Sitting in with the Northwoods Improvisers (Mike Johnston on bass)

I didn’t plan it this way and I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but it’s perfectly fitting that I completed the first half of the Hundred Highways Tour in my birthplace of Bay City, Michigan. My show would have only taken me on my 49th highway, but I missed my turn (yes, in the town where I grew up), and ended up coming through the backdoor of M-84 to end up at Bemo’s, my favorite Bay City bar (now that the Old Bar is long gone).

The show was fantastic thanks in large part to the amazing crowd of family and friends who came out for it. Also, having my brother/comrade Todd Berner open for me was perfect. He’s a hell of a songwriter and sounded great. Later, his set with Alyssa Diaz held the room in awe.

The absolute highlight of the evening (or maybe the entire tour so far) was sitting in during Northwoods Improvisors’ set. This trio of mind and soul-bending artists: Mike Gilmore (vibraphones, marimba, cheng, guitar, saz, percussion), Mike Johnston (bass, wood flutes, percussion) and Nick Ashton (drums, percussion), inspire me like no other living musicians do. It was an honor to be able to introduce their music to some new people, and then to share a new poem while they played an Alice Coltrane piece — wow!
The poem is from a new project I hope to record called From Coltrane to Coal Train: An Eco-Jazz Suite. Here’s the piece we debuted:

Communion

“All a musician can do
is to get closer to the sources of nature,
and so feel that he is in communion
with the natural laws.”
– John Coltrane
spoke these words, 1962
the same year a German coal mine explodes
killing 299 and John Glenn orbits the earth
dancing through “fireflies” of ice
the Centralia coal mine fire begins to burn
decimating two towns & likely to continue
burning for 250 more years and Bob Dylan
first sings “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall”
& 50 years later
I sit outside this bar
in a brief respite between coal trains
listening to the sparrows
discuss a coming storm
the willow across the road
dances out the same message
the aspens of the courtyard
sigh their thirst,
soon to be slated

I’d like to go in for another beer
But the earth’s music is too compelling

All any of us can do
(as the first rain drops fall)
is to get closer to the sources of nature
(as the birds fall silent)
& so feel we are in communion
w/ the natural laws
(even though what I first take for thunder
is instead the next train
rounding the bend)

[More reports from the Hundred Highways Tour here]

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Hundred Highways Tour #45 – 48: M-25, I-75, I-23, M-14 to Bookbound

When I was in college at a small school in a mid-Michigan cornfield, my best friend was at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. I was the poor kid who wanted to transfer there, but knew I could never afford it. It was my Christminster (if that’s not too obscure (hint-hint) of a reference).

Ann Arbor was where I got hipped to social and political activism in the form of the anti-apartheid movement, to the overwhelming amount of what there was to possibly learn in the form of the endless stacks at the graduate library, to the wonders of mind-expanding substances in the form of a little baggie of Pinconning Paralyzer in Mary Markley Hall. It was also where I discovered and fell in love with independent bookstores.

Places like Shaman Drum, West Side Bookshop, Wooden Spoon Books, Crazy Wisdom, David’s Books, and the original Borders — before they sold to K-Mart and the corporate suits did what they always do to a cultural institution. (Sadly, the stores I just listed that don’t have links are no longer with us).

On this visit, nearly 30 years after those days, I had the great pleasure to read at a new Ann Arbor bookstore, Bookbound. The owner’s Peter and Megan Blackshear were fantastically welcoming and friendly. The crowd was small, but a chance to reunite with some great old friends – one of whom, Monica Rico, was one of the Saginista poets of the Red Eye poetry scene back in Saginaw (read her work!), another was my friend Kevin from the pow-wow circuit days who was with me at the beginning and end of several of the road trips in Vagabond Song.

After the reading, there were drinks and more drinks with great friends (Good Ol’ Nats), new and old. The next day, I visited some of the other bookstores in town and kicked around the art fair, where I bought a new hat. Just in time to wear for my next reading, that night at Bemo’s Bar in Bay City (the subject of the next report from the Hundred Highways Tour).

newhat

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